The Relationship Checkup: Bringing Science to Couples Therapy


Friday, January 25, 2019, 9:00 AM—4:00 PM
The Relationship Checkup: 
Bringing Science to Couples Therapy
James Cordova, PhD, Tatiana Grey, PhD.


Relationship Intimacy is not for the faint of heart. Though 90% of people will marry at least once, maintaining an intimate relationship is inherently challenging. It requires the bravery to be our true vulnerable selves and the humility to accept the frailties of our partner. Relationship health affects every part of our lives. People in healthy relationships are emotionally and physically healthier and more resilient. Their children are healthier and generally more successful in school and in life. This workshop will present a regular checkup-based approach to promoting lifelong relationship health called the Relationship Checkup.

The Relationship Checkup (RC) includes the theory, structure, and tools for clinicians to provide regular evaluations of a couple’s relationship health. The RC is easily accessible and brief. The objectives of the RC are (1) early identification of relationship health deterioration, (2) prevention and early intervention, (3) motivating appropriate help seeking, and (4) fostering long term marital health and preventing divorce.

This workshop will begin with an overview of the effects of relationship health on other health systems and present empirical findings about relationship health. We will then introduce a behavioral theory of intimacy and demonstrate key therapeutic skills for reigniting the intimacy process.

The heart of the workshop will focus on strategies for promoting emotional acceptance, including how to uncover soft emotions and how to find and work with relationship themes.  Empirical evidence will also be presented demonstrating that the RC can be beneficial as a stand-alone relationship intervention as well as lowering the barriers to further treatment seeking and providing regular relationship health maintenance for at risk couples across a range of professional settings. The RC has been adapted to fit easily within an existing practice, primary care settings, and home visits. The therapeutic techniques at the heart of the RC are applicable to working with couples or addressing relationship concerns of individual clients.

Following this training, participants will be able to:

  1. Conduct a complete Relationship Checkup Assessment and Feedback session.
  2. Compare therapeutic techniques for working with couples versus individuals
  3. Describe the Relationship Checkup’s theory of change, including a behavioral understanding of the intimacy process and the path of least emotional resistance, and the use of empathic imagination.
  4. Describe skillful examples of each therapeutic technique utilized in the Relationship Checkup.
  5. Apply strategies for building intimacy bridges between partners, specifically through hands on practice
  6. Identify and explain the most common relationship themes and patterns between partners.

James Cordova, Ph.D.is Chair of the Psychology Department and the Director of the Center for Couples and Family Research and the Relationship Checkup Program at Clark University. Professor Cordova is a leading figure in the field of Couples Research and Therapy. Professor Cordova has been conducting research and publishing in the area of couples therapy, intimacy, and the promotion of marital health and actively training couples therapists for over 20 years.

Professor Cordova is the developer of the Relationship Checkup, a proactive approach to the promotion of marital health. Professor Cordova has completed work as the Principal Investigator of a NIH grant investigating the efficacy of his Relationship Checkup as the marital health equivalent of the annual physical health checkup.

Professor Cordova is currently co-investigator with Dr. Jeffrey Cigrang on Randomized Control Trial to integrate the Relationship Checkup in primary care settings for active duty Airmen and their families. Professor Cordova’s work has been covered extensively in the popular media including the NY Times Science section, the Washington Post, CNN, the Rachael Ray show, and Good Morning America.

Professor Cordova received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle where he studied with leading couples researchers Neil Jacobson and John Gottman. He conducted the first empirical study of Integrative Couple Therapy with Neil Jacobson and Andrew Christensen in 1998. He is the author of a self-help book based on his research called, “The Marriage Checkup: A Scientific Program for Sustaining and Strengthening Marital Health” and a treatment manual called The Marriage Checkup Practitioner’s Guide: Promoting Lifelong Relationship Health.

Tatiana Gray, Ph.D. received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Clark University. She has been the lead research assistant on multiple Relationship Checkup studies including randomized control trials, efficacy studies, and dissemination projects. She and Dr. Cordova have conducted both national and international workshops training clinicians on Couple Therapy and the Relationship Checkup model.

Dr. Grey is currently the Chief Operations Officer of Arammu: The Relationship Checkup Healthcare Company. Dr. Grey’s research interests focus broadly on how to facilitate greater intimacy in romantic relationships. She is interested in therapeutic mechanisms that elicit compassion between partners as well as how contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation can help partners cope with trauma and feel closer to and safer with one another.

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